Eric Lindsay's Blog 2005 July

Friday 1 July 2005

Taxation is Theft

Start paying the usual excessive taxes for yet another year. The Federal Government budget could and should be halved. Much of it is pointless churn. Drop all the middle class subsidies, cut taxes in half, and reduce the number of people involved in paper chasing, rule following garbage.

Saturday 2 July 2005

Crime Does Pay

Are countries really serious about international crime? We have international police, like Interpol. Budget is US$28 million, 384 staff, of whom 112 are police. Get serious.

Crime is international, when the Triads or the Mafia are involved. It hardly needs saying that smuggling is international (support free trade - smuggle).

Crime is transnational, and does not recognise national sovereignty. The cause is more important than country. Al-Qaeda is stateless. Police tend to stop at the border. People smuggling is a US$7 billion a year business. A half million people enter the USA illegally each year, and the same number enter the European Union. About a million women and children a year are sold into sexual slavery.

Money laundering is thriving. There are 2000 mutual funds in the Cayman Islands (population 36000). Six hundred banks, 500 insurance companies, 60,000 businesses, and US$800 billion in assets. Must be a coincidence.

Sunday 3 July 2005

Power Out

Our power at rgw Whitsunday Terraces was out from 12:50 until 4:27 p.m., about 3:37 in all. About two hours into it I called the Ergon phone recording, which listed Airlie Beach and Jubilee Pocket as being out. Over the past few years, since the extra power lines went in, we haven't had nearly as many outages of more than a second or so. However it seems the better distribution isn't yet perfect.

In this climate, the biggest threat from a power outage is that the beer in the fridges will get warm, However it does disrupt businesses, since most don't have any real manual systems. I recall as a child turning the pump handle at a garage petrol bowser (1) to draw petrol while power was out. I also recall in my first job looking after the kerosene pressure lanterns for use during (frequent) blackouts in the city. But we had mechanical adding machines then, with a hand crank for emergency use.

A side effect of this blackout was to remind me that I needed a replacement uninterruptible power supply (UPS). My existing APC 300 seemed just fine after nearly six years, however its 300 VA rating meant only around 180 watts maximum. The specifications on my fairly new iMac G5 say 180 watts. I figured I needed at least a 500 VA UPS, which should be good for 300 watts. Alas, many UPS suppliers are not very informative regarding how to match a UPS to the likely load.

Unlike some businesses, I don't need a lengthy battery life. Just a few minutes to close down gracefully. Besides, my experience is that most power outages here are for a matter of a few seconds.

Bowser (1). Just how did a 1920 oil storage trademark like bowser, pass through WWII tanker use, and become the common name for a petrol pump in Australia post WWII? At least to the point where it was the first term I thought of when using that example? An American would probably say a gas pump.

Monday 4 July 2005

New LaserJet Printer

I saw a Harvey Norman advertisement for a Hewlett Packard colour Postscript LaserJet HP2550L printer for A$599. So I phoned them. They said they had one left and could ship it. Given they are 150 km away (just after the nearest traffic light), I didn't really want to drive there to get it. Also, the box won't fit in the car.

New LaserJet Printer (2)

Harvey Norman phoned to say the printer was broken (returned stock), but they would organise to get one to me from the maker.

Tuesday 5 July 2005

Uninterruptible Power Supply

I checked online for a UPS, and found a few people selling APC or Belkin of the size I needed at a bit over A$200, plus freight. Then I recalled the July issue of Silicon Chip where I noticed Dick Smith advertising Invensys Powerware 3110 AUSB UPS, $30 off at A$98 for the 300VA, $20 off at A$158 for 550VA/330W, and $40 off at A$186 for 700VA/420W. I phoned the local Tandy agent at Plaza Electronics, and they had the 180W and the 330W UPS. I'd have preferred the 700VA, but the 550VA should be fine (the computer needs 180 watts). In Australia, Tandy and Dick Smith are both owned by the Woolworths group, one of two massive retail chains, and stock each others goods.

At Plaza Electronics, their store price didn't match the newly advertised prices. Now Plaza are an agent, not a Dick Smith company store. However when flyers are out with sales items, the agents have them also.

Turns out that this applies to flyers only. The Plaza folks phoned up to find why they didn't have the advertised pricing. Got told it was because Dick Smith advertised it for their stores only. Plaza were not amused by this. They gave me the UPS at the advertised price, despite that cutting their already thin margin to 1/3. I'll probably deliberately put enough extra purchases through them over the next few months for them to recover their profit. Trouble is, it has to be things they don't stock, because they only rarely have stock of anything obscure like I tend to want.

I have bought odd things from them over the years. An undetailed home theatre system in December 2003. I think it must have been either a set of speakers or an amplifier, not a whole system.

Wednesday 6 July 2005

Efficient LED Lights

I've been real impressed by the high lifetime and increased efficiency of LED based lights. Scattered photon extraction (SPE) techniques make use of some of more than half the photons formerly lost through absorption as they exit the back of the phosphor instead of the visible front. The phosphor is moved further away from the semiconductor, and the LED lens geometry also assists. Prototype produce more than 30%-60% more light per watt. They hope to reach 150 lumens per watt by 2012. Current SPE LEDs can produce as much as 80 lumens per watt, compared to 60 lm/W for a typical fluorescent tube, or 14 lm/W for an incandescent lamp.

Anyone using 1 watt Lumiled flashlights knows just how nice a LED light can be. I'm looking forward to being able to replace fluorescent lighting with them, even if only in spot applications initially.

Thursday 7 July 2005

Uninterruptible Power Supply (2)

After the 550VA/330W Invensys Powerware 3110 AUSB UPS battery was charged, I connected the computer to it. Seems happy enough. I was wondering whether the ground leakage current of the computer and UPS would be enough to set off the ground leakage detector I have on that power line. Unlike many of the PCs I've tried, it didn't trigger an earth fault.

Three UPS and surge protected outlets, two just surge protected, with a sufficiently wide spacing to accept some plug pack power bricks. That was handy. My much older APC UPS only had the compact IEEE488 computer style outlets (probably replacing the tiny US outlets), and these were much less convenient. I eventually built an extension cord from a monitor plug so I could plug a conventional power board into my old UPS. The new UPS has a set of protected RJ11 jacks, however my phone line is across the room so I can't use them. There is also a DB9 and a USB communications port, so you can run software to detect a power outage and shut down the computer automatically. I'm unlikely to use that. I mostly think that sort of software tends to cause more trouble than it is worth.

This model has a 12 volt 7 AH sealed lead acid battery. Should be good for around 5 minutes or so of backup. The manual claims audible noise as 45 dB at 1 metre. I probably wouldn't be worrying about the noise when it runs. The 4.2 kilogram weight means I'm unlikely to hang it from the wall on a couple of screws, despite the paper template for doing so.

It did pass the pull the plug from the wall test. The alarm isn't loud enough to hear. I like the strident urgency of the APC somewhat better.

Friday 8 July 2005

Irrigation Gains

CSIRO say irrigation produces 28% of Australia's agricultural production, and 51% of the total agricultural profit, although only 1% of agricultural land is irrigated. On average irrigated areas used 2.4 times the more water than adjacent dryland areas, but their revenue was 13.1 times greater. Irrigation districts supported 3 to 5 times more people and economic activity than nearby un-irrigated areas.

Saturday 9 July 2005

Selling Sickness

Drug companies are finding new illnesses, to increase their markets. The medical definition of what is normal is shrinking all the time, as the goalposts are moved. Blood pressure is an obvious example. Selling Sickness - How Drug Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients by Roy Moynihan and Alan Cassels.

Sunday 10 July 2005

Solar Power Con Job

Letter in The Sunday Mail by L M Harris of Broadbeach I installed a huge system on the roof of my three storey house, facing due north, with no shadows... The cost of the system was A$31,565 with a government rebate of $4000. But even though I live in an ideal location, it will actually take 60 years to recover [the cost via electricity savings]. And as the whole system may only last about 35 years, I have wasted $20,000. I am extremely angry that I was taken in, so I have let Energex know how I feel and would advise others not to waste their money.

Monday 11 July 2005

Drug Residue Risks

Talk about industrial pollutants! Motel rooms and units used as drug laboratories for producing methylamphetamine get contaminated. Six to ten kilogram of hazardous waste is produced for each kilogram of methylamphetamine. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health raised the issue, as unlike some U.S. states, there are apparently no clean up laws here regarding decontaminating premises.

Tuesday 12 July 2005

Full of Food

Faking feeling full of food (say it quickly) is something a gut hormone oxyntomodulin does. A limited number of test subjects lost an average of 2.3kg over a month trial. Lack of side effects were the advantage, compared to Meridia or similar anti-obesity drugs. See London Imperial College's Dr Stephen R Bloom's article in Diabetes.

Wednesday 13 July 2005

To Hell With Yahoo

So I tried connecting to Yahoo, for the first time since they took over eGroups several years ago. I thought they stuffed eGroups up so badly I stopped using any of their groups, despite them being the main groupware many of my friends used. Got Yahoo up, clicked to go to the Australian site (USA weather reports are not much use to me). They have a drop down list of TV programs, so it seemed handy idea. Clicked on Queensland remote, and Yahoo brought it up and then dropped right back to reloading the Sydney version.

OK, test aborted. I'm not wasting my time on a web site that doesn't work (probably wants a cookie). I'll check Yahoo again in a few years.

Thursday 14 July 2005

Geothermal Energy

This hot dry rock energy actually has some merit as a low impact energy source. Take advantage of hot water (or superheated steam) from beneath the earth. Unlike most alternative energy sources, it is full time, not part time like solar or intermittent like wind power, so it can run base load. It can be turned on and off pretty quickly, so it can be increased for peak loads.

Granitic rocks contain thorium and potassium that decay and release heat that builds up in rocks as close to the surface as 4 kilometres. Australia's Cooper Basin contains lots of hot rocks. You also need a cap of about three kilometers of insulating rock over the top, to retain the heat over the ages. Queensland company Geodynamics has drilled Habanero 1 and 2 a half kilometre apart. These holes hit hot rocks at 3.8km, and went on to 4.421 km. Inject high pressure water down one, and crack the rocks over a 2.5 sq km area. Then tap the 250 degree C steam for power when it reaches the surface. Theoretical studies look to a 20 year working life at 20 litres a second.

The six inch holes cost A$10 million each, way above expectation. Amongst other things, they lost the lower 245 metres of the second drill stem. Managing Director Dr Bertus de Graaf expects costs of 4c per kw/h when using 8.5 inch holes, with 16 injection sites and 21 steam holes over a 7 square kilometre area. A plant like this should produce 275 megawatts, and be reasonably competitive with gas. The site is a good one, being in South Australia, where extra energy is really needed. Mind you, Innamincka isn't exactly a populated area (town of about 13). Geodynamics have a A$5 million Federal Government grant to assist the initial trial.

I'll be real interested in seeing how the costs go. There are lots of likely hot rock areas in Australia. Visitors to country Queensland will know of several towns where hot artesian bores provided town power towards the end of the 19th Century.

Friday 15 July 2005

Public Rejecting Public Schools

When I was in my early working life, in the 1970's, 4 out of 5 Australian parents sent their children to a public (Government) school. Certainly while I was growing up, the number of children going to private schools was limited. They were regarded as a bunch of stuck up toffs. Now, two out of three Australian parents send their children to public schools. It isn't a majority of children, but the 0.5% a year trend is there. Government school attendance numbers dropped from 2.34 million in 1979 to 2.25 million in 2004, while private schools increased from 650,000 to 1.08 million. If it were not for the extra cost, even more students would attend private schools, according to an Age survey (another 34%).

Federal funding subsidies for private schools is an interesting item. Schools are funded inversely proportional to the socio-economic status of the neighbourhood. High SES areas get as little as A$1000 a student, low SES up to A$5600 per student. The school SES is equally weighed on education, job status, and income (based on 2001 Census), not just on income. This is pushing schools out to well paid blue collar workers, especially high income self employed like plumbers.

I got these figures from an interesting article by former Australian Labor Party senator John Black, who points out that public schools and union membership are no longer compulsory.

Saturday 16 July 2005

CDs ain't CDs any longer

There is a standard for how CDs are made, and ever since the patent came out, all CDs worked essentially the same way. Now the patent has expired, various companies are making or plan to make things that look exactly like CDs but don't work like them.

The thing added is copy protection or digital rights management. Some of the companies planning this include EMI and Sony BMG. Suggested response if you accidentally buy one of these copy protected things is to return it to the store and demand your money back. If the store advertises it as a CD, report them to Consumer Affairs for false advertising.

To add insult to injury, the pseudo CDs are recorded in Windows Media, not in the original (lossless) CD sound format, nor in the popular (but compressed and lossy) MP3 format. You can't use the sound tracks with your iPod, the biggest selling portable music player because it doesn't play the proprietary Windows Media, nor does it convert it to MP3.

Meanwhile, Sony in Australia have stalled allowing Apple to provide music Sony owns on iTunes music store in Australia, delaying the launch of iTunes music store in Australia. (Sony may not be the only hold out.) My response is to put Sony on my eternal shit list. I'm not buying any sort of Sony product. Sony can go to hell. I hope Sony goes bankrupt and disappears from the face of the earth.

Sunday 17 July 2005

Disability as the new dole

There are more people on disability pensions than on unemployment benefits. We must have done something terrible to workers and to the healthcare system if this is really the case. The number of disability support pensions tripled from 1977, from less than 150,000 to close to 700,000 by 2000, a 90% increase from 1980 to 1999. Over the same period France and Germany went up less than 15%, Italy went down by 60%. However Britain went up by over 150%. Has health declined in Australia? No, it has not.

The reality is that, without any general decision to reduce the retirement age, this is what disability pensions have created. Pensioners have retreated from the labour market, and may have lost confidence in their ability or motivation to work.

Part of this lost confidence may reflect education levels. Around 75% of 25-34 year old Australians finished High School. However only 45% of 55-64 year olds completed High School. Labour force participation increases with skill levels, which makes vocational training of particular importance. When Australia outsourced a lot of its manufacturing, it discarded the blue collar jobs that went with manufacturing.

Most work based training in trades adds to existing skills. However if the entire class of work has shrunk, then you are really looking at learning a whole new set of skills. A welder and metalworker isn't always going to take to clerical and computer work. Even within trade work, there are limits. Construction workers are in great demand at the moment, but the white collar notion that people can continue to work when they are over seventy is impossible in some industries that put a premium on strength or similar attributes that decline with age.

If Governments want people to continue to work as they age, there needs to be a lot more effort put into retraining and promoting new skills.

Monday 18 July 2005

New LaserJet Printer (3)

I phoned Harvey Norman to ask how my printer was going. They said the manufacturer was out of them (at that price I'm not surprised demand was heavy). They told me they would get one in from another store instead.

Tuesday 19 July 2005

To Hell with Jetstar

A fair while ago I booked a flight to return on 25 August from Sydney to Proserpine on Qantas's Jetstar. The flight was due to depart in the afternoon at 16:55, arriving at Proserpine at 19:20. Late afternoon departure, even later arrival. Time passed. Jetstar sent me an email (not precisely a reliable method of contacting people) to say the flight I was on had been changed to 7:25 a.m. arriving Proserpine at 9:50 a.m. This is nine and a half hours earlier!

We had been looking forward to an extra day in Sydney. That sends Jetstar to the end of the queue of airlines I'll look at for flights.

Wednesday 20 July 2005

New LaserJet Printer (4)

Harvey Norman phoned to tell me one of their stores was sending them a printer for me.

Uninterruptible Power Supply (3)

Already the UPS has signalled momentary power outages in the windy conditions. Lines brush something they shouldn't, circuits trip, and reset a fraction of a second later. Six times the power went out in the evening, and twice more next morning. I bought this cheap 500VA UPS at the local Tandy outlet store a few weeks so ago. It seems I was just in time. I regret I couldn't use my old 300VA UPS for this job, as I was very pleased with the APC UPS I've had for years. However this Macintosh with its built in screen draws more power than my ancient PCs did, and the APC would be beyond its ratings. I strongly suspect the APC will still be working long after the new one fails.

Speaking of fails, I'd better build something more substantial in the way of surge protection now I'm not using the APC. I thought I would have until the cyclone season to attend to that, but the weird winter weather may force earlier work on that.

Thursday 21 July 2005

New LaserJet Printer (5)

Harvey Norman phoned to say the printer had arrived, and they would send it by one of the fast courier. I thanked them ... but figured that meant maybe Friday if I was lucky, but more likely Monday.

New LaserJet Printer (6)

We had been to the chiropractor in the late afternoon. I had waited at Neptune's fish and chip shop on the Airlie Beach esplanade to collect our grilled fish for dinner while Jean returned to our Whitsunday Terraces apartment ahead of me. As I got to the top of the tenth flight of stairs from the main street, I noticed a Fast courier van leaving from the Whitsunday Terraces parking level.

Same day arrival for the printer. Jean had just reached home in time to get a phone call from the delivery guys at reception. They don't like carrying heavy boxes up more flights of stairs if no-one is home. Jean told me that the driver's helper, a young chap about as broad as he was tall, made carrying the printer upstairs and inside look easy. It sure didn't seem easy when I put the printer on a shelf.

Friday 22 July 2005

Jean's Penguin Award

Jean tackled installing her Dell laptop. Turned out that having Dell ship with an empty partition, and Windows on the other partition, had only been a partial solution to dual booting Linux. Ubuntu Linux ran from the live CD, and also installed, and dual booted just fine. However with some data and files needing to be used by both Windows and Linux, Jean needed to make a third partition readable and writeable by both Windows XP and Linux.

Jean was able to kill off the Ubuntu partition, and use Partition Magic to make the two new partitions. Ubuntu again installed just fine, and put its boot manager in the master boot record in charge of whether Windows or Ubuntu booted. Jean had to figure out which partition was called what for Ubuntu. It wasn't the name Jean had called the volume, which did annoy her. The Ubuntu fdisk gave her the partition information she needed. Then she had to learn about how to mount a file system using that information. Finally, she had to use vi to edit the fstab to do that automatically on bootup, and to set a suitable umask to allow access to the shared partition from Linux. I didn't do anything except sometimes tell her which man pages to read.

I thought all that earned Jean a penguin. Now, if she can ever get the wireless card to run WPA under Linux she should be able to get her second penguin. Our wireless network runs WPA, but we could revert that to WEP. I can't do anything about T-Mobile using WPA in all their hotspots, like Kinkos and airline lounges.

Saturday 23 July 2005

New Colour LaserJet Printer (7)

The new Hewlett Packard Colour LaserJet printer seems to mostly work just fine with my Macintosh. Part of the reason I picked it was it had Postscript (well, Level 3 emulation at least) as well as PCL6. I would always totally avoid any of the accursed GDI printers that only work with Windows (and only of you have the correct driver). As well as a USB port, as required for recent computers, the new printer also has an old style parallel port. So I can use it with my ancient Toshiba notebook (at least until I give it away) and my Psion PDA, if I want to.

In theory I could use Jean's identical printer any time, since I paid for half of it. In practice, continued domestic harmony was best served by not wanting to use the printer while Jean was near a deadline. Since Jean always seemed to have deadlines, printer access close to my own deadlines was fraught with timing problems. I got things printed while Jean had appointments elsewhere, and suchlike brief moments. I really didn't want a printer of my own, mostly because apartment living doesn't provide vast amounts of space for two large printers. However I finally figured I could clear enough space to put most of my office into a closet.

Sunday 24 July 2005

Parenting Payments

Joblessness in families with children under 15 (why 15?) is high in Australia, third highest in the OECD (U.K. and Ireland are worse). When a family depends on income support, their children tend to leave school early, to have more long term unemployment, to have children themselves before 19. They are also more likely to become homeless. Two thirds of families without jobs are single parent, and more than half of these parents still depend on income support five years after they are no longer even eligible for parenting support. In Australia, lone parents whose youngest child is 13 are required to do 150 hours of work related activity every six months.

Many countries are a lot tougher than is ever likely in Australia. Work tests apply when the youngest child is three in Austria, Finland, France and Sweden.

Having faith that you have the skills to find work is the biggest step in actually getting work. That means that access to training and encouragement in doing so becomes of critical importance.

Monday 25 July 2005

Audio Formats (1)

I am totally lost with audio file formats. There seem to be about as many formats as there are sound engineers to devise them. Each claims best, fastest, latest.

Dumbing it down, there seem to be two approaches. Lossless, to keep as much quality as you can, or lossy and compressed, to reduce the file space used.

Lossless generally have little or no compression. The idea is that they don't change the sound quality at all from the original digital recording. In short, they should be bit perfect copies. Examples would be the original CD standard (PCM), or Microsoft Windows WAV, or Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC with a .m4a extension). Original CDs are recorded with 44.1kHz in 16 bit (65536 volume levels) samples. Standard audio theory indicates these should be fine at recreating sounds up to over 20kHz.

Tuesday 26 July 2005

Audio Formats - Lossy (2)

Lossy formats shrink the size of a file, but may sacrifice sound quality. They can be recorded at anything from 8kHz to 96kHz (or higher for purists who don't believe in Nyquist limits) at bit rates between 8 bit (256 sound levels) to 24 bit (16777216 sound levels). Higher frequencies and more bits mean larger files.

If you are playing the music in a noisy car, who cares about quality. If reproducing a classic concert, you might want lots more detail (or a lossless format). If you have a very limited memory in say a portable phone, you may want high compression and a low bit rate.

The most popular lossy sound format is MP3, which has no digital rights management. Comes from the Moving Picture Expert Group, set up to produce standards in video and audio compression. MP3 is more properly called MPEG Audio Layer III. Earlier standards MPEG1 and MPEG2 are for digital video cameras and files.

Microsoft have their own proprietary format, called Windows Media Audio (WMA). There is also a lossless version. The lossy version is somewhat newer and somewhat more efficient than MP3, however I'd never use it because it is proprietary. Microsoft can change the rules about how you can use it. It includes digital rights management, so I advise never using it.

If you want Open Source software, Ogg Vorbis (named after two Terry Pratchett Diskworld characters) is both royalty and patent free.

MPEG2 Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is flexible and can do multiple channels, up to 48, at frequencies between 8KHz and 96KHz. It is close to twice as efficient as MP3. Apple use it as their standard sound format. AAC is also used for audio in MPEG4 video. It may be used in High Definition DVD.

Apple added FairPlay digital rights management to AAC for use with their iTunes Music Store. As usual, I advise a total boycott of formats with digital rights management. As ACC is a lossy format, you can't turn it back into a perfect CD.

What I do advise is buying CDs (second hand is fine) of any music you want. You can then make lossy copies (preferably in MP3 or Ogg Vorbis) for your player.

Wednesday 27 July 2005

Big Mac

I'm astonished someone like Morgan Spurlock could get an award for a propaganda piece like Super Size Me. He filmed himself eating only what was available over the counter at McDonalds for 30 days. He could only Super Size a meal if offered (it happened 6 times). He had to eat everything on the menu at least once.

The results were dreadful. He gained 11 kilogram, and his cholesterol went from 168 to 230 (US units, not metric). His doctor said his liver had turned to pate. He got mood swings and headaches (I could get headaches just from the music in McDonalds). He even threw up, on the second day, faced with eating an entire Super Sized Big Mac meal.

As a piece of anti McDonalds propaganda it is wonderful. However the real lesson is that in an age of abundance and cheap meals, we each need to be responsible about what we eat. You could get just as sick selecting food in a supermarket, and lots of people do just that. The chocolates, sweets, snacks and biscuits section of the local supermarket have more in them than the fruit or vegetable sections. Supermarkets stock what people buy.

I checked the local McDonalds. They have nutritional information on the wrappers, and have a pamphlet listing what is in all their items. While it is true there is more junk food in the menu, there is a bunch of perfectly reasonable food also. Fruit juices, fresh fruit, a variety of salads, and a variety of low fat main meals. A careful buyer could easily eat healthy at a McDonalds even under the Spurlock rules.

Take some responsibility for what you shove down your mouth.

Thursday 28 July 2005

Coal As Good As It gets

Energy exporters with lots of coal, like Australia, are unlikely to see much point in Kyoto. If we give up using coal, we have to also give up using electricity. Politically that is impossible, and politicians know it. This is despite coal being a pretty dirty fuel. But it is a cheap ($35 per MWH) dirty fuel, and even natural gas ($40 per MWH) isn't price competitive. Plus we export coal to China, which isn't a Kyoto signatory. If we don't do it, Brazil will. If neither, then China has the largest coal deposits in the world (it has over 2 million miners). It buys our coal partly because it doesn't (yet) have the transport infrastructure to move its own supplies to the coast.

There isn't any chance at all that coal fired power stations will shut down in Australia. Victoria is even worse than average, with a really dirty brown coal station set to continue for another three decades. Victoria has lots and lots of brown coal.

Renewable energy is heavily subsidised by the mandated renewable electricity targets scheme. However no renewable energy source is even close to being a viable replacement for coal.

Friday 29 July 2005

Australian Coal power 83% of Greenhouse Gases

Coal fired power stations produce 83% of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. UCC Energy in Sydney in a joint CSIRO venture, claim their ultra clean process reduces impurities in high quality coal to 0.2%. CSIRO get a royalty if they can sell the technology. The resulting coal is so pure it can be used in modified gas turbines.

Saturday 30 July 2005

Water on Mars

European Space Agency photo from Mars Express purports to show a patch of water ice in a crater on the broad plain known as Vasitas Borealis in the far north. The unnamed crater is 35 km wide and 2 km deep. The photo was from the late Martian summer, when carbon dioxide ice had disappeared from the northern polar cap.

Sunday 31 July 2005

Apple add Trusted Computing

Slashdot and Cory Doctorow seem all bent out of shape because the Intel developer version of OSX (for Intel) has TPM drivers. Cory is saying he will never buy an Apple if that is true. Certainly if the intent is to put all our data into forms we can't control, I'd agree. But I don't think it is. Here is a smarter response about trusted computing and Apple. See also a better FAQ about Macintosh on Intel code.

While it seems like a good idea to warn about potential perils of anything that might make DRM more secure, I think this outcry is way overdone. After all Linux has TPM also. Apple are by no means alone in this. Lots of existing PCs have TPM chips.

Apple code observers say the TPM code comes into use with Rosetta, used by various apps. So initially this is sounding like a way of making sure the GUI parts will not work on any arbitrary PC it gets tried on. Apple said from the start they would prevent OSX running on anything except Apple hardware. Given Apple make their money mostly from hardware sales, it is hard to see them not deciding to restrict what hardware OSX will run on.

Not surprising they did this, given Apple's Intel development version has appeared on Bit Torrent. About the only thing that surprised me was it took this long for the code to leak. I guess the vast majority of Apple developers really do intend to abide by the NDA. I'm pleased to see that.

Good summary of why Apple used Trustworthy Computing.

As a consumer who isn't willing to put up with DRM, I decline to buy any product with DRM that I can't break. I'm buying DVDs at the moment (despite Macrovision, which was why I never bought them earlier) so I have most of the material I might want in forms I can use, albeit only after a little effort. If DRM changes into any sort of lockdown in iTunes, or iDVD, then I simply wouldn't buy any products from the iTunes store. If CDs are protected, I stop buying CDs. Well, actually, if I ever come across a copy protected CD I'll take it back to the store for a refund. If they won't refund, I'll take a replacement copy, and keep bringing them back until I get a refund. Just don't put up with this DRM shit. When Sony and EMI go broke, they will figure it out.